One of the first challenges for Labour’s new leader will be to identify why the party lost and what they need to do to make themselves electable once more. This is not necessarily an easy task (it took the Conservative party a decade!), they must convince their own party members of any changes and during long years of governing there is a risk of a disconnect building up between the way parties see themselves, and the way the public see them.

As part of our polling on the Labour leadership last week we also asked Labour party members which criticisms of the Labour government they themselves agreed with, and which they thought were the main reasons the Labour party had lost.

A majority of Labour party members agreed with three criticisms of the party – the large majority (71%) thought Labour had been too subservient to the USA over Iraq and Afghanistan, 64% that it became out of touch with ordinary voters and 62% of party members think that Labour did not do enough for working-class supporters. On other criticisms 47% think that Labour didn’t pay enough attention to the trade unions, 41% thought the recession had destroyed Labour’s economic reputation and 33% thought Labour had not been tough enough on immigration. Few (28%) Labour members thought that Gordon Brown had been a poor Prime Minister, and hardly any agreed that Labour had taxed too much (9%) or wasted too much of the money spent on public services (12%).

Asked which three of four of the reasons contributed most to Labour’s defeat, the answers were slightly different. While 71% had thought Labour was too subservient to the USA, only 43% thought it was a major cause of the defeat, rather the economy was seen as a main cause (47%), along with Labour becoming out of touch with ordinary voters (47%) or doing enough for natural working class supporters (44%). Gordon Brown’s own performance was seen as a major factor by only 33% of Labour members, with only 25% thinking that immigration was part of the problem. Hardly any party members (5%) thought money spent on public services being wasted was a factor.

Compare this with the opinions of the general public. There immigration (52%), the recession (43%) and Gordon Brown (43%) are seen as the main reasons Labour lost the general election. Being out of touch (39%) and failing to help working class supporters (29%) were seen as less important factors. Wasteful public spending was only seen as an important factor by a minority (29%) but nevertheless, this was far more important than Labour members perceived it.

With Labour electing a new leader, the amount that Gordon Brown contributed to Labour’s defeat is now largely academic. On the other two main reasons cited by the public, while most Labour members have not themselves lost confidence in the party over the economy, they do recognise that it was a problem with the wider public. In contrast, immigration was seen as a major factor in Labour’s defeat by 52% of the public, but only 25% of Labour members, a major disconnect.

However, we shouldn’t go away from this polling thinking that it says a harsher immigration policy is the necessarily the answer. Firstly, people are not always good judges of what drives public opinion or sometimes even their own decisions, so just because immigration was seen as a main driver of Labour’s defeat, it doesn’t mean it necessarily was. Secondly, it may not make good strategic sense for Labour to change their stance on immigration anyway – while it could please their traditional working class supporters, the Labour party is a broad church and also contains middle-class intelligentsia who would be repelled by an anti-immigration policy.

Finally, it is worth remembering that the next election could be almost five years away. If the current government runs its course, it will have changed the political landscape that the next election is fought upon. Part of the battle ahead for the Labour party be over how the public remembers the Labour government just gone. In the same way that Labour in 1997 managed to embed the Major government in the public mind as one of “boom and bust” that starved public services of investment, the Conservatives will be eager to paint the former Labour government as profligate spenders who wasted money and drove the country into unmanageable debt. While neither Labour members nor the general public saw spending as a major cause of Labour’s defeat, the disconnect between the general public, 59% of whom think most of the extra money Labour spent on services was wasted, and Labour members, only 12% of whom agree, may yet be the most important as Labour try to adapt to the new political landscape.

This is cross-posted from the YouGov website here, Will Straw’s take on the polling at Left Foot Forward can be read here.


180 Responses to “Views on why Labour lost”

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  1. Both BBC and ITN running with the “latest Cameron gaffe” stories- a little light relief from this thread I can tell you

    To wit:

    @Eoin

    Ressurecting Blairism will achieve nothing

    Don’t you really mean ‘Ressurecting Centrism’ ?

    @Roland

    over the last 50 years Labour have managed to become the party of mass immigration and yet keep hold of that most racist and deeply conservative group, the English White Working Class

    Utter twaddle- only someone not white and working class could be that *@%&£?#$

    @Roger Mexico

    I’m genuinely puzzled at this defeatism and despair. It makes no sense

    Ha ha ha: nice one Roger but I’m not falling for that oldest of tricks ;-)

    @Kyle

    Labour just ran out of steam

    Most sensible- and succinct- post on this thread :-)

  2. Rob,

    It is the likes of your good self that almost ensure Labour will spend a generation in the wilderness.

    Rank and file Labour voters roll a dice on the morning of election day to decide whether they are even going to turn up. In Galsgow Sunderland and elsewhere they dont bother….

    If you can honestly tell me that a Glasgow sardine can (apartment block) full of Kosovans has no impact on whether someone from the east of Glasgow turns out on polling day then I will start to listen to Global centrism…

    In the meantime I am left with no other conclusion than to deduce your like think that the ordinary voters are there to be talked at rather than listened to. Turkish entrance to the EU is a starter… you are either for it or against it.. I am pretty sure I figure where they average Brit is on that one.

  3. I only joined the Labour party a few weeks so maybe I’m not a typical Labour member, but I don’t think it is all doom and gloom for Labour at all.

    I recall posting during the GE campaign that I was dreading the thought of election night and seeing all the Tory triumphalists leaning out of the windows at Milbank.

    Well folks, it didn’t happen because the Tories didn’t win and I don’t think Labour have anything to be ashamed of. I certainly don’t think they need to engage in a prlonged bout of soul searching and navel gazing.

    IMO we need to continue to occupy the Centre/left, where we are now the only party in residence. We need to accept that public spending has to be curtailed in a sensible manner to reduce the deficit without penalising those at the bottom of the pile.

    I think it can all come good for Labour again.

  4. I think it is a mistake to view Labour as being in the same position as the Tories were in ’97 and now face years in the political wilderness.

    I can only stress that Labour were not trounced in the GE and their current polling
    figures aren’t that bad!

  5. Labour did very well at the last GE considering the many factors that were against them (global economy, 13 years in office etc). However, remember that Mrs T only had a small majority in 1979, which was converted into a landslide in 1983.

  6. ROB SHEFFIELD
    I shall have to lie down very soon to get over a semi- mistake on your part. I am white but not working class. I am taking the working class thing to the usual Labour conclusions, in that I have up to the age of 58 had to work to live. But the type of work would not include me in the fold of that great party of yours.
    However, you could be totally wrong if the old Tory view point is adhered to. I had no private income, therefore the income from work was my only income capable of sustaining my existance. Therefore on that basis you are wrong. I am both white and working class.

  7. Valerie,

    I appreciate the optimism, heaven knows we will need tonnes of it to overcome a pan Liberal-Conservative elctorla pact should it happen in 2015.

    I would urge you to look at our share of the vote… It was less than that polled by Major in 1997.

    People refused to back blue in great numbers in 2010 because they were terrified of Thatcher. She’ll haunt my dreams till I die no doubt. But every day that Cameron is not Thatcher then the Conservative PArty’s stake rises…

    The one card reds played in 2010 and it worked in that it prevented an outright blue majority was ‘same old Tories’.

    If Cameron can pull us out of Afghanisatand, keep us out of Iran, protect the NHS, raise the income tax threshold and do a half decent job of education whilst all the while maintaining peace with the Celtic peoples of North and west then he clearly will be in a strong position to refute the ‘same old Tories’ jibe that I understood crystal clear when it was uttered…

    New voters in 2015 will have been born in 1997. They will not know anything of the last Tory government. Black Wednesday to them will mean nothing… nor will cash for Honours. God forbid, but in all likeliehood they wont even know that coal was black.

  8. @ Eoin

    “People refused to back blue in great numbers in 2010 because they were terrified of Thatcher. But every day that Cameron is not Thatcher then the Conservative PArty’s stake rises…”

    A very important point.

    “The one card reds played in 2010 and it worked in that it prevented an outright blue majority was ’same old Tories’……..he clearly will be in a strong position to refute the ’same old Tories’ jibe that I understood crystal clear when it was uttered….”

    ….and another one.

    You are thinking about it Eoin-unlike quite a few of the red pursuation here.

    And I have no doubt that you have concluded that these thoughts have also occurred to David Cameron.

  9. Eoin

    Thanks for your reply, but it really doesn’t answer my question. As I pointed out even if D rather that E Miliband (only one “l”) does get in, the Labour Party is not an absolute dictatorship, especially in opposition. The policies you mention are not just unpopular with Labour activists; they are unpopular with the public as a whole.

    And now is the best time for Labour to drop mini-me conservatism – if DM doesn’t like it, tough. If you believe you’re in opposition for a decade, a few party rows won’t affect anything.

    Incidentally this isn’t just about future policies’ it’s about admitting the mistakes of the past especially on misplaced spending (which is true and the public believes – even if they overestimate the scale of it).

    What puzzles me is, it’s not just you or a particular section of the Party, it’s general. So much of what is coming from the coalition is misconceived – as people from all political perspectives have pointed out on this site – that there should be tremendous enthusiasm from Labour for the fray. And in a situation when any fight is potentially winnable. But the reaction seems to be one of resignation and disengagement. It doesn’t make sense

  10. ROGER MEXICO

    “So much of what is coming from the coalition is misconceived – as people from all political perspectives have pointed out on this site ”

    …erm…have they?

    What have Conservative supporters on here identified as “misconceived” ?

  11. Colin,

    Yes I think DC figured it out a long time ago. The problem was that his face was too shiny to trust. The only way anyone was ever going to believe his was if he proved them worng. I suspect that is the quiet mission he has now set himself to.

    Roger,

    Perhaps it is the fact that we are rudderless… Every team needs a captain. If the voters decide that is D mil (one l ;) ) then that is fine be me….. until then though- I think that an open honest debate is merited…

    past mistakes? phew I think I would reqire a hot meal before I put myself to that task….

    Don’t forget – there is much still to be proud of that would not have happened otherwise…

    What is a waiting list? or scab labour? I like that women have a future in the UK. They are the three best acheivements of Nuu Labour… I like that Tony Blair helped end the macho culture and promoted Metero-men… They were credible and longlasting achievements.

  12. Very interesting subject. It’s certainly true that governments are usually remembered in the popular mind for just one or two things, which may give a quick impression, but can only be part of the story at best.

    e.g.

    Attlee – NHS
    Eden – Suez
    Macmillan – ‘You’ve never had it so good’, Profumo affair, ‘Winds of Change’
    Wilson – ‘The pound in your pocket’ (will be devalued)
    Heath – EU, Miners Strike

    etc etc

    I refrain from coming more up to date for fear of being contentious, but I agree with Antony that Labour risks being remembered mainly for the mother of all busts.

  13. @Eoin

    New voters in 2015 will have been born in 1997. They will not know anything of the last Tory government. Black Wednesday to them will mean nothing… nor will cash for Honours. God forbid, but in all likelihood they won’t even know that coal was black.

    ‘new voters’….in 2015 Eoin will be turning out in historically low numbers. They are not the important issue: that is- that most perennial of all electoral issues: who owns the centre ground.

    By 2015 the ownership of the centre ground clearly (by dint of their actions) won’t be with the coalition (though IMHO that edifice will collapse in on itself by mid 2013 at the latest).

    The issue for “the centre left” is: do we follow the snake charmers and refusniks down the path to purity and leftism: or do we reconquer the centre ground that has been vacated by a coalition government ideologically fixated on removing the state over and above any fiscal or practical or efficiency imperative. In a way that Thatcher- a far better strategician than Osborne or Cameron- never dared nor wanted ?

    Of course if you are not concerned with the ‘centre left’ (or social democracy as it is rightfully called) then equating Blair or David M with the worst febrile excesses of Tebbit and ‘authoritarianism’ is consistent. But-be clear- if so, you are not working for a non-conservative victory at the next GE in precisely the same way that the CLPD et al were not working for a non-conservative victory at the 1983 GE.

    If Cameron can pull us out of Afghanisatand, keep us out of Iran, protect the NHS, raise the income tax threshold and do a half decent job of education whilst all the while maintaining peace with the Celtic peoples of North and west then he clearly will be in a strong position to refute the ’same old Tories’ jibe that I understood crystal clear when it was uttered…

    It really is extremely sad to see someone who has for so long been an articulate deconstructer of Tory ‘pfaf’ drop his drawers as my granny would say, for a man simply because he has slagged off Israel (and even then purely as a raffles-like opportunist).

    @Colin- too many sentences to paste in

    To you I say: “There will always come another time” i.e. Keep on enjoying the period in the sun because within 6 months you’ll be constructing complicated explanations (even if they are actually very simplistic) as to why the Coalition are on minus approval and the Tories are on less than 36%.

  14. ROB

    “To you I say: “There will always come another time” i.e. Keep on enjoying the period in the sun because within 6 months you’ll be constructing complicated explanations (even if they are actually very simplistic) as to why the Coalition are on minus approval and the Tories are on less than 36%.”

    Rob-I just love the way you attack your demons. I don’t know how you take the stress ;-)

    ….anyway….thanks -I will enjoy-it is a joy to have a Conservative PM. I think he might be a good PM too.

    But sadly I won’t be there to take the brunt of your I told you so self congratulation in 6 months time-because I know NOW that the government OP support will plummet after the autumn spending announcements.

    And it IS quite simple Rob -people won’t like it.

    But this isn’t a sprint-it’s a middle distance event.
    You may just find it’s a marathon for you. ;-)

  15. I think now what matters is what type of leader Labour will elect. Whether it be a Michael Foot type like Ed Balls or a Tony Blair/David Owen type like Milliband Sr.
    I personally would like to see Diane Abbot or Andy Burnham take the crown; they are in my opinion, traditional Labour people.
    I think a repeat of New Labour is out of the question. It worked once. Like a hat trick. Keep doing it and it will be plain boring.
    After 13 years, what Labour would need, is a leader who was not part of the Cabinet. Diane Abbott. However, the Labour party is free to do what they choose and not listen to my wafflings.

  16. I really think the reason Labour lost is that people just wanted change.. Simple as that !
    When the Tory’s lost in 97 the economy was in much better shape than Labour have just left. However after 18 years of bliss, people just wanted change!

  17. Colin,

    Rob I expect minus approval 2nd Q22011 onwards for the coalition and mid 30 con poll rating with labour in the lead (over cons) on around 40%.
    However, I do not anticipate a big enough lead being built up in 3 years or so to withstand the inevitable swingback to the Governing party (con in this context)as the GE approaches.
    As an LP member I hope I am wrong but what has been called my pessimism is in my view a realism that if shared by more party members would lead to a quicker re-focusing and therefore quicker meaningful electoral success.
    If the cons had listened to Francis Maude and others earlier 2005 would have been closer.

  18. Rob,

    You miss the point.

    It is my anethema for the concept of a ‘centre ground’ that divides us.

    If the blues want to come over from the dark side to the murky aquamarine waters that Clegg and others seem to excel in then i will applaud them..

    at least it is not a repeat of the deep blue sea that I was born into.

    But just because i think my brother’s girlfriend is alright does not mean I think I should marry her.

    Consequently, it is on the left I shall stay.

    I wish you and your bedfellows on primrose hill all the very best :)

  19. Rob,

    On another point not wholly unrelated. The most endearing quality about those who do call the centre ground home is their magnaminity. I find it cute that they are much less tribal than I.

    Thus, it is with confusion I read your posts. On the one hand an advocate of the centre but on the other hand a tribalism that would make I , Balls or Brown proud…….

  20. Eoin
    Rob writes interesting and informative posts but is disadvantaged by a chip the size of a railway sleeper. His centre ground is flattened by the wheels of tumbrels with wailing toffs.

    Mind, so is mine.

  21. AW is right to have doubts about the electoral advisability of Labour adopting a much tougher stance towards immigration. However there is a much more immediate direct reason for this than his explanation ie that “Labour … contains middle-class intelligentsia who would be repelled by an anti-immigration policy.” Apart from being an unjustified and patronising remark – in fact middle class people as a whole are often much less tolerant than working class voters – it is a simple fact that the overwhelming majority of ethnic communities, containing post-war immigrants and their descendants, voted with immense loyalty for the Labour Party in 2010 and previous elections. Labour party members conduct the majority of doorstep canvassing and they know from their direct experience that this is the case. They are in a unique position to know that Labour has built up long term trust with minority communities in the UK . To throw that away in pursuit of a so-called populist and potentially racist hardening of immigration policy would be suicidal for Labour in major cities like London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle and Liverpool where the Party did extremely well in the May 2010 elections, and which will form the basis for a victory in 2015,

  22. Howard

    “His centre ground is flattened by the wheels of tumbrels with wailing toffs.”

    Actually his posts send shivers down my spine.

    The thought of someone with Rob’s authoritarian politics -in power-deciding who can & cannot describe themselves as “working class”…and who is or is not “working for a non-conservative victory” is redolent of some very scary dark days in political history.

    The knock on the door at night-the awful accusation which banishes forever…”you dropped your drawers for the enemy of The State”.

    I could take a Sue or an Eoin in power-or even an Amber at a push-they would mean well. But a Rob in power would make me join the Liberal Party ( as the LibDems would then be called ;-) )….in exile I expect !

  23. This obsession with the ‘centre ground’ interests me. One of our most successful premiers ever was Mrs Thatcher. Would posters on here consider the Tories under her to occupy the centre ground? Perhaps some would, but not many of our Labour brethren I suspect.

    Leadership is more important than exact place on the political spectrum in terms of winning elections.

  24. @Rob

    I think Cameron will be “The Gaff Prone PM” from now on even if he doesn’t make another Gaff for the rest of his life.

  25. I would absolutely refute the not as bad as thatcher point. The up to 40% cuts, the deficit is the most important thing, the outright insult of not only some of our most important partners but also insulting our own war history, the tampering with the NHS, education and public housing. DC is worse if that was possible that the iron lady. I am confident that labour will sweep back in power despite the tory attempts at gerrymandering come 2015 or whenever the next election is held.

  26. @Eoin

    “If Cameron can pull us out of Afghanistan………”

    Crikey, if he can achieve all that then I might consider voting for him!

    That’s my point. I don’t think he can. I think a leader who can truly change his party has to have principles, a narrative, a belief, call it what you will.

    I see him as a consummate politician, a polished performer who has changed his stance to suit the circumstances. Clause 28, the EU referendum, the minimum wage, saving Northern Rock, etc etc. What does he really think? Who knows.

    Maybe I’m wrong. Only time will tell. But by gad – it’s going to be interesting.

  27. Rob,

    It is possible of course that there will be a GE in 2012/13 and that labour will come back to power.
    Not my view but possible.
    IMO it would be wrong though for the LP to allow this possibility to slow the process of genuine renewal that we need to go through.
    A victory in 12/13 without a clear idea of what to do when in office and little progress on reconnecting with core supporters would be a one term ‘old firm’ win.

  28. @Colin

    Can I tell you when the power of the state sent shivers down my spine?

    It was seeing pictures on TV of the massed ranks of police in riot gear facing the Orgreave picket line. God I feared for the democratic traditions of my country.

    You see, we can all do melodrama.

  29. Judging by the foregoing, whereas the Labour members judge correctly why the GE was lost (allowing for the euphemism over working class xenophobism) they certainly are confused about how the next one should be won.

    They don’t need to worry. The Government is quite capable of solving that one for them.

  30. ALL

    This message board isn’t the place for me – goodbye

  31. Valerie
    I wasn’t around at the time but, looking at the footage, I do think the leader of the strikers would have got more sympathy had he not worn a baseball hat.

    Lefties never understand publicity considerations. The present Benn initiative is a case in point.

  32. @’Archie’

    ALL

    This message board isn’t the place for me – goodbye

    Vis AW’s comments about nom de guerre postings from the same ISP as a regular contributor…

    ….goodbye Ghengis :-)

    [Suspected sock-puppet correctly identified. Suspected culprit not. Unless they choose to identify themselves and apologise I’m not going to out them, but it was not someone with views similar to their creation – AW]

  33. BBC/ITN news: Cameron speaks with “Two right feet firmly planted in his mouth”

    Classic :-)

  34. Valerie

    “God I feared for the democratic traditions of my country.”

    Yes , I remember it well-so did I.

    But it’s odd how these things sometimes come back in a different form & put themselves in some sort of context…..I had to laugh when I read about Scargill’s Barbican flat.

    You have to hand it to these lefties. No point in having been on top of the barricades if it doesn’t see you OK.

  35. EPOCHERY-you are ROB SHEFFIELD

    Have you told AW?

  36. Rob,

    My mum taught me something that still rings true…. Those that shout the loudest….. ;)

    Twitter seems to be down so i cannot figure out if your gaff prone plaything is doing well in his approval ratings. I will report back soon :)

  37. @Pete B
    “This obsession with the ‘centre ground’ interests me. One of our most successful premiers ever was Mrs Thatcher. Would posters on here consider the Tories under her to occupy the centre ground? Perhaps some would, but not many of our Labour brethren I suspect.

    Leadership is more important than exact place on the political spectrum in terms of winning elections.”

    Yes, but she was lucky enough to have a split opposition for most of her reign

    Cameron and Thatcherism? I would not be at all surprised if by spring next year a lot of people are thinking more about the similarities than the differences

    Why Labour lost? The idea that it ran out of steam is too simple. It did, but this was at least partially because there were no working mechanisms in place for the party to regenerate itself in terms of policy ideas and purpose. Policy-making was dominated by a small cabal at the top who viewed it mainly in terms of short-term political strategy ie the next day’s headlines. I thought this would end under Brown; I was wrong. If this carries on under the new leader, Labour might engineer an electoral victory next time, but they will do as little with it as they did in the last five years of their most recent stint

  38. I hope cameron’s meet and great the public sessions continue. Plenty of people will have something to say about the gaffe so i wont. It would be a shame if this type of recconnect was ended if we picked up on every word said wrong…

    I remember wanting Hilary Clinton to be the next president of the states… In a Live TV debate she pronounced the new Russian presidents name wrong.. apparently that lost her the debate….

    Strange auld game politics.

  39. @Jay Blanc -“I think Cameron will be “The Gaff Prone PM” from now on even if he doesn’t make another Gaff for the rest of his life.”

    I don’t think so – not just yet. This from Liberal Conspiracy Blog is quite astute –

    “The media seem agreed that Cameron has taken to the public performance aspect of being PM like a natural, though he isn’t necessarily known as a master of detail. Mis-speaking does not fit with that script – so not so much is made of it.”

    They make the point that if Brown or Major had made a string of foreign policy gaffes like DC in their first three months it would have been a story – with DC it isn’t.

  40. @Islandradical
    (re Mrs Thatcher and the centre ground)
    “Yes, but she was lucky enough to have a split opposition for most of her reign”

    That might be true, but the so-called centre ground was firmly occupied by the SDP/Libs/Salads. Labour for most of the time was very left wing, and Mrs Thatcher is normally considered right wing. So the idea that going for the centre is correct strategy is not always true. I still say that leadership is more important if we are considering electoral success. If the desired outcome is social cohesion, then perhaps aiming for the centre is the right strategy.

  41. So farewell, Archie.
    Who was that masked man?

  42. @Colin & valerie – “Can I tell you when the power of the state sent shivers down my spine?”

    For me, it was being in a car of birdwatchers during the miners strike on an overnight twitch to Cornwall and being threatened with arrest on an M1 slip road if we didn’t turn back and head north. Four blokes in a car 50 miles from Sheffield at 2.30am must mean flying pickets. It was extremely threatening and tense, particularly when we asked under what legislation they proposed to arrest us. At that point a minibus full of policemen with no ID numbers got out of their van in full riot gear and surrounded us.

    Such actions were blatently illegal and unconstitutional. As is much of the police tactics at demonstrations after 13 years of Labour rule.

  43. Turkey entry to the EU would be a disaster….

    The argument that it is a trading partner ignores the fact that most of the trade is one way…. Unless of course we are counting union jack towels on a stony beach in Marmaris…

    Its population exceeds the UK thus under the QMV arrangements within the EU it would very quickly be a rival power…

    It is much more likely to cosy up to Germany and might also drive a wedge between the Franco German alliance, which suits us less than old tribalists might think…

    added to that- its eastern provinces would qualify for objective one status overnight… Its rural population is small granted but it’s very very skilled workforce could pcik up some good engineering jobs and places at some of our major companies very very quickly…

    This is a bad deal for the ordinary British worker…

    The flexibility of the Turkish workforce also greatly exceeds ours. This I fear would see a return to more nigh shift work patterns and we may see a large portion of our elderly lose their jobs…

    Language and assimilation I accept would be much less of a problem than other countries joining since their language skills and reputuation for secularism and belief in democracy means that the would readily subscribe to our ideas of citizenship. This last paragraph is quite possibly the only plus side to a wave a Turkish migrants.

  44. I posted quite a bit on immigration before the election, so I apologise if I’m repeating myself (like that ever stops any of us ;) )

    The poll itself probably overstates the issue in importance – it’s a reflection of what people think other people think is important after all. So they will tend to follow the narrative of the media, which was that immigration was deliberately ignored as a topic (despite all evidence to the contrary) and affected how people voted (ditto). It may have been overstated, but it was not negligible.

    I think John Murphy is right that the most relevant topic was EU immigration; and its effect on the jobs market and local public and private services. The fact that the incomers were almost exclusively white, while many of those being displaced were not, also meant that immigration could be raised without accusations of racism (though that still happened).

    In truth immigration policy for the last few decades has been entirely for the benefit of business. And British business , and the City in particular, has mostly believed that greater efficiency should be obtained by driving down labour costs. A dogmatic belief in out-sourcing – preferably in a distant and cheap country – irrespective of the more costly problems and worse products/services. If impossible to move from the UK, then site new jobs in areas convenient for executives to live rather than where unemployment is. Have an automatic reliance on importing labour and skills and refuse to ever train anyone for anything.

    As a result the British government constantly applied pressure to expand the EU and has put very few controls on internal movement. In addition a blind eye for many years was turned to a whole sub-culture of dodgy colleges, student over-stayers and “tourists” who never returned. It was felt that this kept prices down in the service industries, especially in London. The chattering classes had to have their servants (though they would never call them that). In fact action only began to be taken when it was realised that this underworld was also ideal for terrorism.

    A very lax attitude was also taken towards skilled labour. Much cheaper to import Indian IT workers than use trained locals. Much easier to bring in Filipino care assistants and nurses than use and train locals. Even though unemployment among the Bangladeshi community is high, it is apparently impossible to train any of them as chefs; people must be imported from the homeland. And all they will find it much more difficult to object to low wages or poor conditions.

    As a result on some estimates all the new jobs created in the last 5 years went to non-UK citizens. I actually suspect that the government thought they would be perfect guest workers, cause no drain on the Treasury and go back home. But of course people settle down; fall in love with a person, or a job or a place; found businesses; bring over friends and family; have children; commit crimes; and do all the other things to which human beings are prone. And these things tend to require houses and school and hospitals and prisons and lots of other expensive public services.

    Meanwhile the priorities of politicians and the press ensued that most of the effort of the immigration service went into “bogus” asylum seekers. The target culture (for what are people’s lives compared to a fleeting statistic announced in the Commons) meant that genuinely persecuted families were much more profitable to catch than those pesky single economic migrants (especially if you ran Yarl’s Wood). And you might as well set them all up for deportation and let the Appeals procedure sort them out (costs the taxpayer a bomb and sends some people to destitution or death, but hey your figures look good).

    All this has not gone unnoticed by the British working class. Not the “White Working Class” – the children and grandchildren of black and asian immigrants were disproportionately affected. Indeed one of the ironies of the Gillian Duffy story was to hear asians of all classes agree with her in that distinctive Rochdale accent.

    So they are very sceptical about immigration control and its effect on their lives. Whether they trust politicians to fix it is another matter. They certainly don’t trust the BNP to fix it, because the vast majority of them are not racist. This explains why the BNP did so badly at the election, despite the importance of the topic.

  45. @Alec

    Writing my earlier post led to me remembering being on the A1, in the east midlands near Newark, and seeing a mini bus full of police in riot gear flagging down cars.

    I agree that Police action at recent demonstrations has been unlawful and wrong. I just feel that the police’s behaviour during the miners’ strike was in a different league.

  46. Roger,

    Excellent post. Plotting attitude to immigration of a political spectrum must be like pinning a tail on a donkey blindfold…

  47. IslandRadical

    A very shrewd and well-worded analysis of the vacancy at the policy-making heart of New Labour. Eoin told me that the country should be proud of the achievements of Labour’s 13 years, but in truth there’s not much to show for such a long and secure period in office.

    The great constitutional changes of the first term were mainly a multi-party effort from John Smith’s time; the one Labour add-on, elected mayors, was not a success. The minimum wage was compromised by loopholes and lax enforcement of other regulations. Improvements in NHS statistics was achieved only at enormous cost and without consideration that these were the most valuable changes required. Some alleviation of family poverty was made – but the gap between rich and poor still grew. The social changes followed public opinion rather than led it.

    I think your comparison of Cameron and Thatcher is unfair – to Thatcher. She would have been sceptical of the size of the cuts; contemptuous of the 5% a year business; knowledgeable enough to know the 40% was nonsense; and most of all sceptical of the American “smaller state” rhetoric. I think her legacy was disastrous, but she wasn’t that daft.

    Colin

    A way back you asked me what coalition policy items had been attacked as misconceived by Conservative supporters on this site. Even to start with, I remember attacks on the slashing of the schools building programme, both on behalf of schools and the building industry. This isn’t a partisan point by the way (I agreed with the cuts), I have nothing but praise for the way contributors on this site don’t toe the party line.

  48. the boost being created by the labour leadership contest will die down as soon as a new leader is elected and after that for at least a month or two labours poll ratings will fall again and then settle towards the end of the year. the tories however should consider holding a steady ship, yes cut, yes reduce spending but protect those things that matter to people. so long as the tories can do this i do not see any reason why they should not win in five years time and wipe out the lib dems a good tory majority of 60 to 80 next time around.

  49. While neither Labour members nor the general public saw spending as a major cause of Labour’s defeat, the disconnect between the general public, 59% of whom think most of the extra money Labour spent on services was wasted, and Labour members, only 12% of whom agree, may yet be the most important as Labour try to adapt to the new political landscape.
    ————————————————————–
    That 59% could be down to 12% sooner rather than later.

    There is growing concern that the planned cuts in government spending are hurting private sector businesses & crushing consumer confidence.

    If (when?) the public find the effectiveness of their services are suffering – in addition to the economic impact – they will realise that we Labour supporters actually understand the economy & service provision better than the multi-millionaires who now sit at the cabinet table. 8-)

  50. @Eoin

    Hillary Clinton won that debate even if she couldn’t remember Medvedev’s name. I remember watching and I cringed through most of it because Hillary’s performance was generally lousy but Obama was even worse, he genuinely stunk up the joint. Though the moderators were the worst. The whole thing wound up being lampooned on Saturday Night Live.

    But yes, politics is a strange game.

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